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Scientists created artificial enzymes that could result in permanently bacteria-free coatings

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Posted April 7, 2018

Hospitals must be immaculately clean. Obviously, an absolute cleanliness with no bacteria is unachievable and secondary infections and chronic wound infections in hospitals do occur. Now scientists from RMIT University have developed a new artificial enzyme that uses light to kill bacteria and could make the hospital environment pretty much completely clean.

Image credit: Eric Erbe via Wikimedia

Bacteria like E coli and Golden Staph can cause a huge variety of problems in high-risk environments like hospitals. E coli can cause dysentery and gastroenteritis and Golden Staph is one of the major causes of hospital-acquired infections too. This new artificial enzyme, composed from tiny nanorods (which are 1000 times smaller than the thickness of the human hair), uses light to break down potentially harmful bacteria. Scientists say that they have been working on this for years and that these “NanoZymes” offer a major cutting edge over nature’s ability to kill bacteria.

How do they work? They combine light and moisture to create reactive oxygen radicals that effectively break down bacteria. In other words, these artificial enzymes react to light and moisture in the environment. If you pointed a simple flashlight onto, let’s say, a wall with such enzymes, their activity would increase 20 times. Then they would effectively form holes in bacterial cells and killing them. NanoZymes could create permanently bacteria-free surfaces – they can be mixed in with paints or ceramics. NanoZymes can also be included in solutions, which then can be sprayed on various surfaces, effectively controlling the spread of bacteria in public hospitals.

But NanoZymes are not limited to hospitals. They can also be used to create self-cleaning public toilets, preventing the spread of E coli and other harmful bacteria. Scientists already showed that NanoZymes work in the laboratory environment. In nature they could be activated by sunlight instead of currently used torch. Professor Vipul Bansal, lead researcher of the project, said: “The next step will be to validate the bacteria killing and wound healing ability of these NanoZymes outside of the lab. This NanoZyme technology has huge potential, and we are seeking interest from appropriate industries for joint product development”.

But for now the research needs to continue. As the world is getting increasingly more concerned about drug-resistant bacteria, permanently sterile surfaces in hospitals and other high-risk locations is a major goal.

 

Source: RMIT University

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